How to train and motivate an outside salesperson

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Happy Sales person giving the thumbs up - Training an Outside Salesperson
Edward StylesEdward Styles
March 28, 2021
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Want to know how to train and motivate an outside salesperson? According to the Harvard Business Review, start with compensation. The article also suggests having a balance of salary and incentives when designing a commission structure. The design should be based on data provided by experienced analysts that have been scrubbed and rearranged to reveal information that could be used to gain a competitive advantage in a number of departments, from human resources to information technology.

With that being said, it's important to remember that money isn't the only motivator. The following will hopefully offer several practical, actionable tips along with the related conceptual framework, making each recommendation easy to implement. Motivating the workforce isn't an easy feat by any means, but it always helps to have a primer as a starter for your outside salesperson training program.

The Deeper Meaning

Woman training her team

The science is clear; sales teams require a great amount of trust from their sales managers though they may not be able to express this sentiment. They need a greater sense of responsibility and control in order to function fully within their positions. When they feel like they don't have choice or authority within a set of parameters, the negative impact damages morale. Belonging and connection are relationship building blocks that go beyond the sales experience. Encourage a cohesive sales environment by treating reps more like family and less like money-making machines.

How to Prevent Apathy in Sales

Because you, as a sales manager, possess more than a surface-level understanding of those on your sales team, then it'll be a lot easier to identify lapses in performance, particularly among top sales reps. Perhaps the rep most skilled with cold calling is a little bit off this week. Or maybe a rep that's average is doing better than usual this month. In either case, you as the manager will already know the causes of these effects. If you fail to root out the reasons for output or the lack thereof, then you'll miss crucial opportunities for connection and apathy will eventually set in after neglect.

How to Eliminate Bad Sales Techniques

Simply put, one of the best ways of bridging proficiency gaps between sales training and actual execution is ongoing education and this can be as diverse as the manager and team deem necessary. For example, peer-to-peer events where top salespersons offer advice on a somewhat frequent basis can have more influence than if the manager themselves were to diffuse the same information say on b2b demand generation. Offering certificates along with training is another way of upscaling the workforce. This is an area where managers can get creative with very little restraint.

Set Clear and Specific Expectations

Here's a metaphor that effectively explains this point. Imagine a ship or a plane leaving the original location without a destination in mind beforehand. The thought of that doesn't make much sense. But this is what many sales-based businesses do in terms of key performance indicators and other crucial metrics - they leave things to chance. But as an experienced sales manager, you are sure to define parameters for the sales team such as revenue quotas, both monthly and yearly for example. You are also responsible for making sure administrative work requirements are met, and that the sales team is staying congruent.

Make Measurement a Habit

There should be prospecting requirements that need to be met. How much time are they spending with prospects? How many appointments are actually being set? Customer follow-up is another vital training ingredient when talking about measurement. How many orders are placed? How many opportunities for more outreach are uncovered? These KPIs need to addressed consistently if the sales environment is to be ideal. It's not just the managers’ job to understand this information; it's the entire team's responsibility.

Outside Sales Demands These Skills

Sales People learning about the product

The inside salesperson game plan has been published and read many times over, but what about the outside salesperson? During training and subsequent motivations, managers ought to stress the importance of strategic prospecting that utilizes time in the most effective way. On top of time management, outside sales reps must have superior product knowledge due to the transactional nature of how they go about selling. The ability to demonstrate the product virtually is indispensable as well.

The Benefit of Time

Because the outside sales rep more than likely works remotely or perhaps switched to direct, remote outside sales from inside sales, the stakes can seem a bit higher because time is a gift and curse. No commute means more time in the office, but success in outside sales demands discipline. Stress discipline and watch the team improve over time. Also, be sure to highlight the need for tackling high-priority tasks before anything else.

Getting Intimate With Video

Woman showing a video on her laptop

Alongside convincing voice communication, sales team members will do best if they can use video throughout the entire sales process. The media format spices up a sales presentation. Most run-of-the-mill sales slide decks only include a short-form video in very strategic places, but this can be jarring to audiences, especially when you're prospects vary so much.

Content is Still King

It's possible to share more than just video. What about points when members of the team are following up with warm leads or answering inquiries through email or social media. These present great opportunities to share valuable forms of content like blog articles, infographics, useful blurbs, and other forms with information that could be useful to the customer. Get the team acclimated to sharing content; there's no such thing as sharing too much.

Back to the Conversation About Compensation

Payday concept written in a notebook

It seems that the Harvard Business School, one of the most prestigious business resources in the world is an advocate of Bengt Holmstrom, Paul Milgrom, and the concept of a simple compensation system that is tailored to each individual. This is something that could work if training and data support such a decision.

Knowing how to train and motivate an outside salesperson does indeed depend on payout periods as it turns out. Low performers are more motivated when payout periods are shorter, so there's another golden nugget of information when it comes to building out a training program that exceeds expectations.

A Plan of Action

Most of your time as a manager is usually spent putting out fires, while the remaining time is dedicated to actually producing sales. To get out of this vicious cycle, create a daily plan of action geared toward more productivity, thus more revenue. Of course, training salespeople take up a large chunk of time, but what about you as the manager? What can you do to move the conceptual needle?

  1. As the manager, be the example
  2. Always show up fired up and prioritize positive thinking
  3. Make the present the focus, not the past or the present
  4. Participate in group training (daily, weekly monthly?)
  5. Arrange one-on-one meetings with producers
  6. Review salespersons personal goals

Each transactional moment of greatness provided to a sales team all begins with management style and how effective top brass is at training and motivating outside salespersons. The goal at the end of the day is the seamless and consistent creation of outside salespersons who want to go on to become superior leaders themselves.

But if you find you or the team focusing too much on the bad instead of the good, then it might be time to revisit this article in order to recalibrate team dynamics. Go back to the sales training recommendations over and over until you are sure that a foundation is established. If your organization is looking for additional ways to improve the quality of leads through optimized web page design, see the small business experts at E-Marketing Associates.

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